All’s well that sells well

All’s well that sells well

Selling your home—especially if you’ve never done it before—can be surprisingly time-consuming and emotionally challenging. Strangers will come into your home, sizing it up and critiquing a place that has probably become more than just four walls and a roof to you. And if that’s not difficult enough to watch, chances are they will offer you less money than you think your home is worth. 

Whether you’ve done this 10 times or about to embark on your first, selling your home is a complex and somewhat emotional experience, and it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of it all and make lots of mistakes. Luckily for you, Real Estate Caribbean has identified our top three tips to consider when selling your house:

1. Have the right realtor on your side: A secret sale killer is hiring the wrong realtor. Make sure you have partnered with one that is informed and up to date – ie monitoring a multiple listing service (MLS) like Real Estate Caribbean, thus giving you increased exposure to motivated buyers. 

2. Looks are (almost) everything: You’re not actually selling your house, you’re selling how it looks – that’s how important it is. New fixtures, fresh paint and a cleaned up yard (if applicable) can go a long way, and the best part of it is that you’ll probably get most of your money back. It may be a small price to pay to replace an outdated kitchen or remodel the bathrooms; in lieu of a prospective buyer trying to knock a large portion of the asking price due to what they might see is a necessary overhaul. 

3. Pricing it right: Sellers often think they should start the asking price high and then lower later if the house fails to sell. Many buyers and their agents will stay away, assuming you’re not serious about selling or you’re unwilling to negotiate.

Oh realtor, where art thou?

Oh realtor, where art thou?

Whether you’re embarking on your very first home purchase, or you’ve been around the block a few times, having the right realtor is essential to as smooth a process as possible. So how are you expected to find the one for you?

The first thing to do is ask around. Approach family, friends and colleagues for referrals, as knowing someone with actual experience with a realtor will lend credibility and provide reassurance during what can be quite a stressful experience. Secondly, start surfing. Nowadays we shop for nearly everything on the Internet, where pictures, detailed descriptions and positive (or negative) testimonials are just one click away.

Once you have compiled a shortlist, make direct contact: start calling and sending emails to set up an initial meeting. But before you get into the semantics of your budget and their commission, consider asking the below questions to get a better idea of whom you will be potentially working with.

How long have you been working in real estate?

The answer to this isn’t necessarily about a number, as real estate is a commission-based business, and it would be very difficult for a realtor to survive for a long time providing subpar service. Someone who has dealt with a variety of scenarios is less likely to be rattled should any bumps be encountered down the road.

What areas do you cover?

You will likely encounter realtors who are neighbourhood experts and others who will travel halfway across the country to make a sale. It would be ideal with find someone who is a balance of the two, who can work both in and around your main areas of interest.

Are you equipped to handle my unique situation?

Depending on what your goals are: long-term investor, first-time homebuyer, or house flipper – it would be best to find someone that is well acquainted with your specific situation. Don’t be fooled by someone who answers the question with, “Don’t worry, I’ve dealt with this before.” 

Happy realtor shopping!

Much ado and don’t about first time home buying

Much ado and don’t about first time home buying

So you think you’re finally ready to enter the responsible world of being a homeowner. Welcome to the club! But before you start trying to decide whether or not to have a hot tub or pool (or both!), take a look at the below list of Dos and Don’ts to avoid common rookie mistakes.

Do choose the right lender. Look for one with a good reputation who delivers on their promises, especially in regard to the rate they offer and the timeliness of getting the loan in place. Additionally, don’t be blinded by low-interest rates. Lenders know that novice homebuyers can be lured by low interest rates and try to take advantage of this by offering low rates only to add higher backend fees.

Don’t fall for your first. Resist the temptation to make an offer on the first home you like. Shop around and take your time before committing to one of the biggest financial relationships of your life.

Do the math. Your monthly housing costs should be gauged against your income. Keep your total housing payment equal to or lower than 50% of your monthly gross income. Also, hold off on making any huge purchases until after you have closed. Lenders will re-check your debt load just before closing, and could renege if they see large additions, even at the last minute.

Don’t only think about the ‘now’. Play the ‘what if’ game and consider how your home may work if your needs or circumstances change. Things like the kind of neighborhood or quality of local schools may not matter to you if you don’t currently have a family, but can impact your ability to resell further down the line.

Do invest in a professional inspection. Sellers don’t always disclose the whole truth to potential buyers – you’d be surprised at what a fresh coat of paint can cover up! Splurge on an experienced professional, it will save you time, money and house-induced tears later on.

To mortgage or Not to mortgage?

To mortgage or Not to mortgage?

Navigating the tricky waters of the home financing requires much planning and information gathering. There are so many factors to consider and, luckily, there are a variety of financial institutions that provide options to suit your needs. The key is to understand where they differ.

For example, banks vs building societies: the former are companies listed on the stock market and are therefore owned by, and run for, their shareholders. As a result of not having to pay dividends to shareholders, building societies claim that they have historically offered higher rates of interest to savers and cheaper mortgages.

Alternatively, if you want to secure a loan, a credit union may just be the right option for you. At a credit union one can borrow multiple times the amount you have in a share account.

Consider approaching this as you would if you were trying to decide what school to send your child – your most valuable possession – to. What is your end goal, and which kind of institution will help you get there? Where will you find the most value-add to your investment? Do you wish to borrow or are you looking for the most convenient and/or secure place to hold your funds?

While shopping around, try not to be solely tempted by whoever quotes you the lowest rates and fees. On the surface, that seems like a win-win strategy, but the lowest rates and fees won’t make up for poor service, hidden costs or a lack of transparency.

Once you have decided what kind of financial institution best suits your needs, it is worthwhile making note of their online access availability, size of a branch network, and proximity to work or home for your convenience.

Finally, it is essential that you know what kinds of fees are associated with your account. Some instituions charge customers for depositing and/or withdrawing money and others have minimum balance requirements.

Please ensure you read the fine print so as to adhere to terms and conditions, and to avoid any costly surprises!

Home is where the heart … and purse strings tie together

Home is where the heart … and purse strings tie together

You have spent days discussing your ‘must haves’, weeks researching mortgage options, and months searching for your dream home.

At last, you’ve finally found it – success! Now what? Here’s a breakdown of what to expect when you’re about to sign on the dotted line.

  1. An Agreement for Sale is prepared by the vendor’s lawyer. It is usually signed by both parties either at a real estate agency or in the presence of a lawyer.
  2. The buyer is required to pay a deposit of about 10 – 20 percent of the selling price, depending on what has been agreed upon.
  3. After signing the sale agreement, an application is submitted to the Office of the Registrar of Titles. The transfer of the deed signals the completion of the sale.

KNOW YOUR COSTS

According to Robert J Taylor, a Real Estate and Corporate Attorney, legal fees are generally around one to three percent of the purchase price, plus General Consumption Tax (GCT).

Stamp duty is equally shared between the buyer and the seller and is charged at four percent of the property value, as is the registration fee, which is valued at 0.5 percent. Therefore each party pays 2.25% respectively.

Transfer tax of five percent of the property value is paid by the seller, and the real estate agent’s fee is generally three to five percent plus GCT, and is negotiable. Traditionally, the seller pays the agent’s fee, however, it has become quite common recently to pass the cost to the buyer.

Please bear in mind that the whole process can take around 49 days to complete. In the meantime, you can start planning your house warming party and choosing the colour schemes for your dream house. Once you have signed all the paperwork and paid the necessary fees, give yourself a pat on the back – you did it! Congratulations on your new home!

Photo credit: Jamaicans.com or accesspropertyja.com

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